Family’s first time on the ski hill leaves them wanting more


Immigrating to Canada isn’t easy, especially if you’re making the move from a completely different climate. Discovering that winter may mean a foot of snow and -30 C weather is jarring at best. And learning to ski or snowboard probably isn’t on the top of the list of “things to learn about Alberta” when people first immigrate – but perhaps it should be.

For Claire Hwang, it wasn’t her priority after having lived in Canada for 18 years. But this mom of three, who immigrated from Korea to Calgary, decided to put her kids in a couple of ski lessons but not herself. Until today.

In the early hours of the morning, at 8 a.m. when the sun was still not up and most people were asleep, Claire and her three kids, ranging from ages 11 to 19, were sitting at a table at WinSport with their winter gear on, snow pants and all.

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All four Hwangs were eager and ready to start the day. Heading to gear up in rental equipment, Claire and her kids got the package deal – four sets of skis, boots, poles and helmets. The process from start to finish took only 20 minutes, which Claire later expressed her satisfaction with.

Ryoko Trevis, their ski instructor for the day, came by to introduce herself. An immigrant from Japan herself, she later shared what skiing meant to her.

Photo: Amber McLinden

“I think it changes people's lives into a much healthier life,” she says.

As the sun rises up from behind the WinSport hill, Trevis begins her lesson. First, no skis. Learn to properly balance on skis (without the skis). Then, one ski. Can they stop with one ski on? Next, two skis. Snowplow shape down a small incline. Finally, they take the leap to the bronze beginners hill, which is the smallest of three (bronze, silver and gold), and off they go.

Photo: Amber McLinden

Claire is the most cautious of the group, doing her snowplows down the hill carefully. With the encouragement of Trevis, her and all three of her kids make it down to the bottom. With a few successful runs down the bronze hill, Trevis graduates the group to the silver hill, and then finally, the gold hill.

Of course, with skiing or snowboarding, a fall is inevitable, and Claire takes a tumble. Trevis skis to her and gives her a word of advice. “Even Olympic skiers fall,” she says.

Post-lunch break, the team heads back to the gold beginners run, going down a few more times. Like many skiers (including experienced ones) Claire begins to lose some wind after lunch. A whole day of skiing for a first-timer? This can be tough. Trevis recommends a break for Claire.

Photo: Amber McLinden

After skiing over to the chairlifts where the progression beginner hill is also located, Claire heads of to sit and take a break. Her children head up the progression run to see if they can keep going.

Finally, Claire decides her ski day is done. Unlike her children, who have a couple of ski lessons and the power and energy of youth on their side, Claire is spent. However, her day is still considered a success by her and Trevis.

“She was totally linking turns on easy green runs,” Trevis says, excitedly. “That is a very good achievement and accomplishment she had!”

Photo: Amber McLinden

The day isn’t over. While Claire takes her well-deserved rest, Trevis and the two eldest children head up the chairlift to try their luck with the green run. Both made it to the end with only one small spill, and Claire is equally as proud that they had a successful day as well.

As the lesson comes to a close, Claire and her three children are proud of their accomplishments. The two eldest express their sense of triumph to the group for conquering their first green run, saying the challenge was well worth the payoff.

Even with the ups and downs (literally and figuratively) of the first-time experience of skiing, Claire would do it all again – and says others should check out WinSport for their lessons and convenience.

All four Hwangs are excited to come back to ski, and as calendars turn into the new year, the family has already booked lessons to continue learning with Trevis at WinSport.

“You don't have to go to the mountains to get the lessons,” Claire says.

Plus, the work you have to put into skiing is well worth the experience, according to her.

“I felt like a kid again.”

When You Go

To learn more about all the options, visit Winsport's website for details.

WinSport - This is the place so many new Calgarians and residents of nearby communities learn to ski. It's accessible right in the west side the city. If offers an array of classes for all ages and abilities.

Discover ski or snowboard lessons provide a 90-minute lesson, teaching you the basics and getting you out on snow with a lift ticket and rentals for the day (from $55)

WinSport and Canada Olympic Park are located in the west side of Calgary along the TransCanada Highway - serviced by Calgary Transit.

While WinSport doesn’t rent clothing for your day on the slopes, here are a few good ideas about where to buy clothing: WinSport’s retail shop/Coffee Market (main floor of the Frank King Day Lodge),  Play it Again Sports (a second-hand store) or Value Village can help get you outfitted for the day.

Please tell us about your adventures this winter using the hashtag #NewSkiAB and you might be featured on our social media channels.

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